The Flow

While listening to a 2001 archived program of the greatest radio show on this planet, This American Life, I was introduced to the concept of “The Flow”. This term was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “chick-SENT-me high”), a Hungarian psychologist, which refers to the time when an individual experiences transcendant joy and satisfaction during full immersion in a moment of intense activity. This is typical with artists or athletes where they lose track of time and reality.

How does it feel to be in “the flow”?
• Completely involved, focused, concentrating – with this either due to innate curiosity or as the result of training
• Sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality
• Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well it is going
• Knowing the activity is doable – that the skills are adequate, and neither anxious or bored
• Sense of serenity – no worries about self, feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of ego – afterwards feeling of transcending ego in ways not thought possible
• Timeliness – thoroughly focused on present, don’t notice time passing
• Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces “flow” becomes its own reward

Thought I would share some great quotes from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi here…

A typical day is full of anxiety and boredom. Flow experiences provide the flashes of intense living against this dull background. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

We have all experienced times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration… (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Flow is hard to achieve without effort. Flow is not “wasting time.” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness, not by trying to look for it directly. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Getting control of life is never easy, and sometimes it can be definitely painful. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Perform with elan, brilliance and dash – at concert pitch. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

One must develop skills that stretch capacities, that make one more than what one is. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

If we are so rich, why aren’t we happy? (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

We can transform reality to the extent that we influence what happens in consciousness and thus free ourselves from the threats and blandishments of the outside world. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

If you’re alone with nothing to do, the quality of your experience really plummets. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

People generally report higher levels of stress, depression, and tension after watching TV. It seems that TV’s main virtue is that it occupies the mind undemandingly. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

I have a naive trust in the universe – that at some level it all makes sense, and we can get glimpses of that sense if we try. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

2 Responses to “The Flow”

  1. Melanie Says:

    I love, love, LOVE this last quote:
    I have a naive trust in the universe – that at some level it all makes
    sense, and we can get glimpses of that sense if we try. (Mihaly
    Csikszentmihalyi)

    But sometimes the “sense” we find is hard to communicate. I have Built To Spill in my head now… “Don’t let me know what you find out…”

    Oh, now I have to listen to that song. :)
    ~Mel

  2. kollaranderson Says:

    OHHH! I love that song too…going to listen…